“Give us your focking money!” Yes, it’s 25 years to the day since Live Aid shook the world. The global rock and roll charity event has become the stuff of music legend, endlessly revisited on clip shows – but there are still some facts about the day you might not know…
These days it’s regarded as a triumph, but the music press at the time was decidedly sniffy about Live Aid. NME’s Gavin Martin bemoaned the absence of black artists on the bill, and said the concerts were “unwilling to address the furious conflicts of ideologies… that allowed the African disaster to happen.” In the same issue, Don Watson dismissed it as “corporate pop turned corporative charity.”
Perhaps journalists were upset at having to pay to get in to a gig for once. Regular tickets were £25 – but press had to pay £100, and VIP passes were £250.
In the run-up to the UK leg of Live Aid, which took place at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1985, it was rumoured that The Beatles would reform especially for the show. The Sun even splashed the story on their front page. But it wasn’t to be – Paul McCartney performed, but without George and Ringo.
At the Philadelphia leg, held simultaneously at JFK Stadium, Madonna’s first words were “I’m not taking shit off!” – a reference to the recent release of early nude photos of her in Playboy and Penthouse magazines.
Led Zeppelin’s reunion performance was terrible. It was so bad, in fact, they refused to allow the footage to be included on the DVD in 2004, labelling it “substandard”. Watching it on YouTube, you have to say they have a point.
Indeed, there were a fair few duff performances on the day. Missing the spirit of the event, Adam Ant failed to play any of his hits, instead chugging through his then-current single, ‘Vive Le Rock’. “It died a death,” recalls The Independent’s Nick Harris.
Dylan missed the point too, telling the crowd: “I hope that some of the money and use it, say, to pay the mortgages of some of the farmers who owe money to the banks.” Not to the millions of starving Ethiopians then, Bob?
One of the memorable moments came when Bono pulled a female fan from the crowd during ‘Bad’. Many people thought this was a grandstanding, stadium-rock gesture. Actually, he did it to help her: she was being crushed by the crowd, and had signaled for help.
Duran Duran’s Simon le Bon embarrassed himself by missing a note by miles during ‘A View To A Kill’. You can hear it in this clip, at 2.54. It became known as the Bum Note Heard Around The World.
Everyone remembers the video montage of Ethiopian children soundtracked by The Cars’ ‘Drive’. Geldof has originally nixed the video because of time constraints. There was only time to show it because David Bowie agreed to drop a song from his set.
Bruce Springsteen was invited to perform, but decided against it. He later admitted, with some regret, that he “simply did not realize how big the whole thing was going to be”.
Queen’s set has gone down in history as one of the all-time great rock shows. Not many people remember that the band were introduced on stage by mild-mannered comedy duo Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones.
Whereas the UK leg opened with a performance by the much-loved Status Quo (or, strictly speaking, the band of the Coldstream Guards), one of the opening acts on the US leg was an obscure local band called The Hooters. Geldof was incensed, telling Rolling Stone: “Who the fuck are The Hooters?”
At JFK Stadium, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner performed the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’Roll’. Jagger ripped his partner’s dress, leaving her wearing next to nothing. An unscripted mistake, we’re sure.
In recent years Live Aid’s halo has slipped, thanks to dark accusations from some journalists that millions of pounds of aid money reached the hands of local warlords, who spent it on weapons and murderous resettlement programs, instead of food.